Getting back on the track

Today I ran on a track for the first time in 7 months. It felt…good? difficult? almost fast? tiring? exciting? disappointing?

There are a lot of unknowns in injury, and they don’t go away as you make your way back. There is no secret formula that says you’ll get back in shape without hurting yourself if you run this far at this speed but will hurt yourself again if you run further and/or faster than that. You try to balance your overprotective mom brain (“be careful, sweetie!”) with your over competitive athlete brain (“suck it up, wuss!”) and end with feeling…confused.

Was what I just ran impressive? Should I be proud of myself? Or should I have pushed harder, ran longer, and finished faster? Do I even have the fitness to do that right now?

I have been a planner my entire life, and the last 7 months have turned me into someone who tries not to think more than a couple of days in advance. The way to stay sane is to not get attached to the plan. Then there’s nothing to be sad about when the plan changes.

I’m not sure if I’m “back” or still a ways out from that. I’m not sure if I’ll start working out on the track again every week or every other week or what. But I’m trying to savor the positives of this morning. Like the cadence of running into the curve of a 200, the familiar sound the wind makes as you cut through the air at a new speed, and the sight of sweat flinging off your body as you pump your arms.

Yeah…that stuff is pretty good.

 

Ireland Part 7: Guinness Storehouse, Killiney HIll Park, & Dalkey Castle

Last full day in Ireland! We started off the morning by walking to the Connolly Station for the Luas, so we could take it to the Guinness Storehouse. We booked a morning tour ticket, but it’s self-guided, so it really didn’t matter what time we showed up. I would highly recommend going in the morning, though, because it got more and more crowded the longer we were there.

The storehouse is awesome and well worth the money for the tour. Here are some of the fun facts:

  • Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on St. James’s Gate Brewery
  • The brewery purchases 2/3 of the malting barley grown in Ireland each year
  • The water for Guinness comes from the Wicklow Mountains rather than the River Liffey
  • Arthur and Olivia Guinness had 21 (!!!) children. 10 of them survived to adulthood
  • Coopering (making or repairing casks) was a big part of the Guinness company. When an apprentice became a fully qualified cooper, he built a cask, got it in, and then all of his coworkers would fill it with whatever they had on hand and roll it down the street

We visited the tasting room where we got these adorable glasses of Guinness (just the right size for me) and learned the proper way to taste it (breathe in through your nose, sip it, hold it on your tongue, exhale through your nose and swallow). Then Josh attended “Guinness Academy” where you learn how to do the proper pour of Guinness, which should take exactly 119.5 seconds.

I was going to get my pour at the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor, which has a nice panoramic view of the city, but there were approximately 700 people up there, so we stayed just for a picture and then went back downstairs.

I got my pour at one of the restaurant bars on the 5th floor. There was a group of older women who had grabbed straws and put them in their beers, and the bartenders were in the process of taking the straws off the table to prevent more people from doing it. I thought it was hilarious.

We grabbed lunch at the Brewers Dining Hall where I had the bacon, potato, and leek soup, and Josh had the beef stew again. To echo my point about going in the morning, there was a line outside to get in as we were leaving.

We took the Luas back to Connolly (the tram was full of interesting characters) and then bought DART tickets down the coast to Dalkey. The train was relatively empty, and I loved the view as we went down the coast!

Even though we got off at Dalkey, we decided to walk to Killiney Hill Park first. We walked through what I would call the suburbs of Dublin to get there and then headed up the hill. Walking up that hill was the only time I was hot on the entire trip! For once, it was sunny without any wind.

The view from the top was spectacular! I became annoying again with my remarks of “it’s so pretty!” The water is bright turquoise with the only dark patches coming from the clouds overhead.

After hiking down we walked to Dalkey Castle. Even though we’ve already toured 2 other castles, I was drawn to Dalkey because they have period actors! We started off walking through a timeline room where we learned that the lowest class passengers had to help push the train to the station if it ran out of steam. Then we watched a 10-minute video and the tour guide took us around the Abbey.

Then we met the period actors! First there was an archer who took us up to the house where we met the cook. The cook took us on the roof of the house and then brought us back into the house where we met the lady who told us all about how Henry VIII combined the company of barbers with the guild of surgeons to make one profession – barber surgeon. Barber poles got their red and white stripes from barber surgeons hanging the bloody bandages out to dry on poles.

After the tour we took the DART back to Connolly and ordered a pizza on the train. Back at Connolly we walked to a bus stop and caught a bus to the pizza shop. It took a little while to get a bus because the drivers just wave you off and keep driving if the busses are full! Thankfully it wasn’t that long, and we grabbed our pizza and walked to our AirBnb to pack up to head home!

Final pictures:

[envira-gallery id=”819″]

 

Ireland Part 6: Dublin City Bike Tour & Dublin Castle

We started off the morning with Dublin City Bike Tours. The 3-hour tour only traversed about 5 miles as our guide Evan stopped at various spots to tell us about the city’s history. Evan was awesome! Very knowledgeable and funny.

Our tour group was small – a couple from New York and a girl about our age named Catherine. While there are cyclists all over Dublin, and some of the tour was on dedicated bike lanes, we started off just on the side of the street – right by the cars and busses! I was semi-terrified but didn’t get squashed by a bus, so it all worked out.

One stop was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Along with the other cathedral in Dublin, it’s a Protestant rather than Catholic cathedral. They actually tried to sell it to the Catholics at one point, but they declined, saying they wanted to build their own Cathedral. When the Catholics tried to raise money to build a separate cathedral, no one would donate because they knew they turned down a perfectly good one already!

 

 

 

 

Back when Guinness started up, working there meant the company put you and your family up, sent your kids to school, and you got free Guinness every Friday! Evan said that it was really common for your friends to be extra chummy come Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Canal runs along some of the prettiest parts of the tour! We stopped at a coffee shop for a break where we got some tea to warm up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merrion Square was another beautiful stop. The statue of Oscar Wilde is especially impressive because it isn’t painted stone. The green color of his jacket is jade, and the detail, down to the creases in his slacks, is incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the tour we had a couple of hours to kill before our scheduled tour of Dublin Castle, so we found lunch at Fornaio Cucina Italiana which was delicious! I had the vegetarian ravioli and Josh had the lasagna again. We also passed by The Rolling Donut on the way to lunch which I was veryyy interested in checking out. I got a peanut butter chocolate donut that was well worth the stop.

Dublin Castle

Our tour of Dublin Castle had three parts. First we toured the ruins underneath the current structure. Parts of the original wall are still intact. I can’t remember the reason why the ground is so much higher now than it was hundreds of years ago when it was first built.

Next we toured the Chapel Royal which was beautiful! They still use it occasionally for special events.

 

Finally, we toured the State Apartments which included various rooms and an ornately decorated throne room. The State Apartments are the most commonly used space that we toured as they host world leaders when they come to Ireland for events.

We were really tired after the tour and weren’t up for the 2+ mile walk home, so we figured out which bus to take home and walked to the stop. We found out that buses only take coins, and luckily we had enough to cover the fare for both of us!

After a run around Fairview Park and a shower (not as good as glamping but at least it was warm), we walked to Bru Fairview for dinner. I had a chicken caesar salad that was a full 50/50 mix of greens and toppings (including bacon), and Josh had a burger. The restaurant had a great vibe and wifi (it was down at our AirBnb), so we stayed for quite a while. Plus there was a guy there who had his dog (named Walter) sitting with him at the bar, and it was adorable.

Ireland Part 5: Travel to Dublin

Before leaving Killarney I did another exploratory run which led me into a trail where I took a side path down to the edge of yet another lake. There’s something extra beautiful about being right at the edge of an expanse of water.

Then we cooked breakfast, did the dished, and got packed up for the long drive to Dublin. Killarney to Dublin was a bit under 4 hours, so it was the longest drive of the trip. The highlights of the trip were:

  1. There was a super cute cat outside the gas station where we stopped for a bathroom break. Josh insisted that I not touch it, though.
  2. We stopped for lunch at The Cosy Kitchen in Roscrea (which was a little hard to find because one of the entrances is in the back of a SuperValu grocery store) and Josh ate lasagna again.
  3. There’s a Dublin Tunnel that is a toll – €3 except during peak times when it is €10!

We got to our AirBnb and unloaded and enjoyed a little time before heading to the airport to return the car. The listing is described as “budget” and it certainly would be if you were having 4-6 people as it says it can hold. The main bedroom has a bed and then a loft built over it to hold another bed. So much room for activities!

Heading back to the airport, I was just using my phone for directions, and it took us through the tunnel again. Lucky for us, it was peak hours, so we got to pay €10! Poor planning on our part.

After returning the rental car, we planned to take a cab back to the AirBnb since trying to figure out the bus schedule seemed a bit complicated. But the cab line was soooo long! I pulled up Apple maps and was easily able to figure out which bus to take that would drop us off about a mile from the AirBnb, so then we headed off to find the bus instead.

On the bus we managed to miss our stop (it was the first one, and we didn’t hit the stop button, just assuming the driver would stop at every stop), so our walk home was about 1.6 miles instead of 1. We even got to walk through part of the protest downtown, so that was exciting.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. We walked to the store to buy groceries for dinner and breakfasts and then spent the rest of the night planning out details for the next 2 days since we had reliable wifi for the first time.

Ireland Part 4: Torc Mountain, Ross Castle, & Downtown Killarney

This was probably my favorite day. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and oatmeal and juice boxes, we drove to the “upper car park” for for the Torc Mountain hike. Although there is no visitor’s center for Killarney with a map of the trails, a local put together this website which was extremely helpful in finding the trail! There was a little bit of confusion on which way to start on the trail, but once we went over the first bridge, we were all set.

The trail started off on Old Kenmare Road and after a couple of inclines we were in a vast open area where I became extremely annoying to Josh by saying, “It’s so pretty!” incessantly.

Then we hit the right hand turn where we headed up the mountain. The trail was a mix of “sleepers” (railroad ties covered in wire mesh) and rocks. It was actually pretty tame for a hike up a mountain, and I enjoyed stopping to take in the view quite a few times. We got every version of Irish weather on the way up – sun, wind, and rain.

There were quite a few people at the top, and we sat on some rocks to enjoy our snacks and the view of all the lakes. It was the windiest at the top, so we (I) got cold after just a few minutes. We took some photos and then headed down.

The sleepers were easy to walk down, but I’m a bit slow on the rocky paths. At one point this older lady passed us and continue to bounce down the rocky path like a mountain goat. She was so balanced!

It was easy to get back to the car once we were on Old Kenmare Road again, and then we drove to Muckross House, so I could go for a run. I explored a trail near the entrance which led me to to an open field and then down to a lake! It was beautiful. I also got to see the Muckross House from the lakeside, where it looks much more impressive.

After changing back into warmer clothes, we headed to Ross Castle for the tour.

The castle tour was very informative. Here are some of the fun facts we learned:

  • The word loophole comes from the narrow windows that were called loops. They were designed to be easy to shoot arrows out of but difficult to shoot an arrow into
  • The word threshold comes from the stone they would keep in front of doorways to keep the thresh covering the stone floor (to make it softer for sleeping) in the room and not have it track into the stairwell.
  • Stairwells were spiraled up clockwise so defenders (going down the stairs) would be able to use their right hand and force the attackers (coming up the stairs) to use their left hand.
  • You didn’t have to pay taxes on your home if it didn’t have a roof. At one point, the family moved out of the castle and into the mansion they built for themselves. To avoid paying double taxes, they burned the roof off the castle!

After the castle tour, we headed back to glamping for showers before dinner. I still can’t believe how great those showers were. Then we went into downtown for dinner. We walked around, perusing menus posted outside of the various restaurants and settled on Tatler Jack. I got a burger, and Josh got the beef stew (again!).

We walked around the downtown shops including a sweater market. There was a lot of cool stuff in there, but the sweaters were €70-€100! Murphy’s Ice Cream was another stop downtown, and it was good but too expensive for me to fully recommend.

We spent the rest of the evening playing cards on the porch before heading to bed!

Some other photos from the hike:

[envira-gallery id=”738″]

 

 

 

Ireland Part 3: Travel to Killarney, Muckross House, and Glamping

The next morning we packed up, said goodbye to Irene the goat – one of the two goats who lived at our AirBnb – and headed south to Killarney. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive, and we had a few hours to kill before being able to check in at glamping, so the plan was to hike around Killarney National Park until then.

Unfortunately there is no visitor’s center or central place to park. We ended up on the Ring of Kerry which is beautiful but another narrow, curvy road – plus cyclists! When we saw a random church on the side of the road with some parking spots, we pulled off. There was a nice trail/road (maybe Old Kenmare Road?) to walk on, so we went for a little 30-minute walk to break up the car ride.

After our jaunt we backtracked on the Ring of Kerry to what looked like a visitor’s center which turned out to be the Muckross House. There was a parking lot and a bathroom and a restaurant, so we grabbed some lunch before walking around the grounds. We decided against the tour of the house and instead walked to the old schoolhouse and then the Muckross Abbey.

Then we got the go-ahead that we could check into glamping early, so we headed there! I cannot recommend Killarney Glamping at the Grove enough. Linda the owner is super sweet and accommodating, and the glamping site is awesome. There are 5 tents total, and the interior of the tent was the largest living space we had of the entire trip. The bathroom (toilet and sink) behind the sliding door was probably the largest bathroom as well.

Each tent also has its own little kitchen area, so we went to the grocery store to get dinner as well as breakfast items for both days. Camping/glamping always makes me think of pancakes, but I was disappointed not to find any instant pancake mixes at the store, and we had to settle for oatmeal and eggs. We also got some pre-marinated steak and pre-made salad, so dinner was easy peasy.

Before dinner I went for a run to scope out Ross Castle. Despite it being a tad further away than Apple maps told me it was, it was pretty cool, and we added it to our list to visit the next day. To add to the list of reason glamping was my favorite, the shower was so good. The water was hot, the pressure was great, and it was probably the biggest shower of the trip, too. Since I spent so much time being a little chilly, having access to reliable hot water was very exciting.

After dinner and dishes, it started raining, so instead of enjoying the fire pit, we grabbed some games from the communal area and played Connect 4 and cards on our front porch (with the heat lamp). It was a lovely evening!

Ireland Part 2: Cliffs of Moher and Doolin Cave

After a solid 11 hours of sleep, it was time to have our first full day in Ireland! Fueled by the delicious muesli and yogurt provided by our host, we headed out to the Cliffs of Moher via the narrow, curvy roads with a way too high speed limit.

There was quite a crowd to park, but I was confident the crowds wouldn’t be hiking as far as we were, and it wasn’t crowded at all once we got off the paved path and onto the full trail.

The cliffs are stunning.

Side note: The first 10ish photos I took with my DSLR were blue since I forgot to adjust the white balance from the newborn shoot I did a few weeks ago. A good reminder to always look at your pictures!

There is a lot of wind walking along the trail which at times stopped me in my tracks, more out of fear than it actually blowing me over. Thankfully the wind is never/rarely blowing you toward the edge, but it’s still a little scary to have a semi-unpredictable force working against you.

There are 2 directions you can choose from the visitor’s center, and we chose to hike toward Hag’s Head which was just over 3 miles away. On one side you have the cliffs and the ocean, and on the other side you have wide open fields and occasionally a town in the distance. I also saw the biggest cow ever.

It started raining on our way back to the Visitor’s Center, so we stopped in there to get a snack (plus hot chocolate for me because I was cold – this is a running theme). The forecast showed the rain wasn’t going to stop soon, so we decided to drive to Doolin and check out what was there. The trail along the cliffs extends to Doolin as well, so we knew we could always hike more if the weather cleared up.

The main attraction in Doolin is the cave, so we decided to do that tour. They also have a short nature trail where Josh made friends with this goat.

We took the cave tour with all Canadians, funny enough, 2 women and a family of 6 with 4 young girls. Our tour guide’s name was Fergus, and he was great!

The cave was pretty interesting, and the main talking point is that it has the 3rd largest stalactite in the world. You’re led into the cavern where the stalactite is in all dark, and then they turn on the lights as a big reveal. Pretty cool even if it’s weird looking.

After climbing the 125 steps to exit the cave we went into Doolin to find dinner and ate at Gus O’Connor’s Pub. The area we were in was known for its cattle, so I got a steak sandwich that was delicious, and Josh got the beef stew (the first of many times).

Satisfied with the day’s adventures, we went back to the AirBnb where I had better luck with getting the electric shower to give me a consistent temperature, and then ended the night by watching a movie in the chill out room.

Here are my favorite photos from the Cliffs:

[envira-gallery id=”678″]

Ireland Part 1: Travel Day

We went to Ireland! Our adventure started late on Friday night with a redeye flight to Heathrow. We upgraded our seats to World Traveller Plus for this long haul, and the flight was only about half full, so we were the only ones in our row with only one person in the row behind us.

It’s actually pretty difficult to sleep on the redeye flight since they spend a couple of hours serving dinner and then serve breakfast when you’re about 2 hours from landing, leaving only 4 hours in the middle for sleeping.

The 2-hour layover in Heathrow was almost perfectly timed. We had to stand in line for passport control and then take the tram to our gate and only had about 5 minutes of waiting before it was time to board. Then it was a quick hour flight over to Dublin!

In Dublin we got to wait in line for passport control again before taking the shuttle to the car rental facility. We went with Dan Dooley Car Rentals but found out they were bought by Enterprise, so there’s essentially no difference between the two. Then we were off! With Josh driving on the left side of the road. After a wrong lane traffic circle leading to a turnaround in an Ikea parking lot, we really were off to Ennistimon.

It’s roughly a 3-hour drive to Ennistimon, and I got to enjoy the stress free activity of looking out the window. I decided that Ireland has every shade of the color green. There were also far fewer sheep than I expected as most of the pastures have cows instead.

We stopped about halfway through for dinner at the Tipperary Inn and Restaurant after getting off the exit for Moneygall where apparently Obama descends from. There were multiple bars and restaurants and coffee shops named after him.

I had Chicken Kiev which was essentially buttery chicken, and Josh had a burger, both with fries of course. I thought the chicken was some of the best I’d ever had, only slightly influenced by the many hours since I had a full meal.

Then it was on the road again for another hour and a half. Our AirBnb was in a relatively remote area with directions like “go 10 minutes past Inagh and then turn right at the tractors,” so it was a little nerve wracking to navigate there once we got on smaller, more narrow roads (where the speed limit is still 100 km/hr) and it started getting dark.

The directions were perfect, though, and we made it to the house where our host greeted us and got settled in. All I wanted was a shower and to go straight to sleep, so I had my first experience with an electric shower. I didn’t quite get the hang of it, and the water went back and forth between really hot and a little cold.

After the shower, we both crashed and ended up sleeping for 11 hours! It was lovely.

 

The Case for Cleaning your House before Vacation

If you’re like me, you come back from vacation pretty tired. I like to do ALL THE THINGS on vacation. See the sites, eat the food, hike the mountains, etc. The relaxation aspect comes from the break from the daily routine, not actual relaxation.

There’s nothing worse than coming home from and adventure and having to clean the house. You’re already tired, you already have to unpack (way less fun than packing) and do laundry, and the last thing you want to do is scrub the shower.

So – clean the house before you go on vacation. The worst that will happen while you’re gone is that dust will accumulate a bit more rapidly since you aren’t bustling around to stir it up.

You put planning time into vacation and plan for time to pack before you leave, so schedule in an additional hour to clean the bathroom and wipe down the kitchen counters. Then your vacation will be distraction free, and you can physically relax when you get home before heading back to work.

Bonus: if your coworkers flee a hurricane and end up staying at your house while you’re gone, you can rest easy knowing it won’t be a messy wreck when they get there. 🙂